An investigation was underway today into an apparently accidental fire that destroyed a historic church in South Los Angeles and injured three firefighters, including one who was temporarily trapped amid burning debris when sections of the two-story building collapsed.
The major-emergency fire at Crouch Memorial Church of God in Christ at 1001 E. 27th St. started in the attic about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and the flames quickly spread through the Romanesque Revival structure.
Firefighters gained the upper hand on the flames within about 90 minutes, then remained on the scene dousing hot spots. The Los Angeles Fire Department declared the fire out at 1:15 p.m.
The cause was under investigation, but Pastor Lawrence McGee said he believes a wall heater he turned on may have started the fire in the wood-framed church, which was completed in 1896. He said he turned it on because rain was in the forecast and a prayer meeting was scheduled for this morning.
The first of 189 firefighters who responded to the blaze encountered flames shooting from the building's attic, said the LAFD's Erik Scott.
Crews made an aggressive attack with hose lines, but within 15 minutes, portions of the attic and second floor collapsed, he said.
A firefighter who had been on the second floor rode the falling debris to the first story, where he became trapped and had to use his emergency air canister to breathe, Scott said."I got fire all around me... I got fire all around me," he declared over his radio, Scott said.
A Rapid Intervention Company was deployed to save the trapped fireman, who was located and taken out through the building's front door, he said.Firefighters then assumed a defensive posture, fighting the blaze from outside the building, Scott said.
Three firefighters were evaluated for injuries. The one who had been trapped was taken to a hospital, where he remained overnight; he was expected to be released today, Scott said.A second firefighter was also taken to a hospital to be evaluated but did not require treatment, he said.
A third firefighter who suffered a possible electric shock while on an aerial ladder truck was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released, Scott said.
The church was the center of Los Angeles' prohibition movement in the early 1900s. It sits in the heart of a historic district that includes a variety of homes dating back as far as 1893.
Fire Chief Brian Cummings said nobody was believed to have been inside the building when the fire broke out. The department's arson unit was called to the scene, along with the House of Worship Task Force, which includes investigators from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
From Sandra Endo:
Some old photos, the church organ, and a stack of holy bibles, is some of what's left from Crouch Memorial Church of God and Christ after a fire gutted the historic South LA landmark.
Pastor Lawrence Magee was inside the church when the fire broke out. He says he turned on the heater to make sure it was working since the forecast called for rain. That's when he says he heard noises from the heating vent and smelled smoke.
When he looked at the outside vent of the church, Magee says he saw flames, "it was spreading so fast, I couldn't believe it."
Now, he's looking at what's left of the Romanesque revival church which was built in 1896.
The building could not be saved, and two firefighters were even injured trying to tackle the blaze.
In the face of this disaster, Pastor Mcgee is hanging on to is his faith.
Magee says, "we are not giving up.we are not giving up. God is in control. I just know something good is going to come out of this something good."
Since the 1920's the church has been home to a predominantly African American congregation, one that has been suffering in numbers over the years.
Juan Aquino lives a few houses away from the church, he says it's more than just a place of worship, but a historic symbol, "it's just a sad moment for this community cause I think it really united the African American culture and the Mexican American culture at a time when the racial politics were at it's height and it was a place where Spanish speaking members were convening with African American members, it was nice to see. "
Longtime church elder Kevin Crouch says the church was working on turning things around and building the congregation, "it's just devastating to lose our place of worship, a place we call home."
Despite being homeless for now, they vow to rebuild. Crouch says, " there's no such thing as a setback with god there's nothing but opportunity for him to show us how great he is. So, this is an opportunity to watch to see how great he is and watch for that miracle."
Church leaders say they'll be having a prayer vigil tomorrow but the question is where.
(FOX 11 / CNS) A historic church went up in flames in South Los Angeles today and two firefighters who were temporarily trapped in the building were taken to a hospital to be checked out.
The fire at Crouch Memorial Church of God in Christ, built in 1895 and 1896 at 1001 E. 27th St., caught fire in the attic about 9:30 a.m., and the flames quickly spread through the Romanesque Revival structure.
Within a short time, the roof of the building collapsed, and firefighters were ordered outside to battle the flames from the exterior and keep them from spreading to other buildings.
Two firefighters were temporarily trapped in the burning building and rescued by fellow firefighters, Los Angeles fire Capt. Jamie Moore said. It was unclear how seriously they were injured.
Fire Chief Brian Cummings said he came to the scene when he heard part of the roof caved in and two firefighters may have been hurt. "I heard the partial structural collapse at the church and that we had firefighters unaccounted for,'' Cummings said. "That's the worst thing that you can ever hear as a firefighter or a fire chief to know that some of our own are in peril. But (despite) the unknowns that are going on there, the one constant is that we know ... the firefighters will do what they need to do to make sure that we can get in there to rescue those firefighters.
"... Our firefighters take that calculated risk because when there's lives to be saved we'll risk what needs to be done to do it, whether it's a resident of Los Angeles or one of our own.''
The church was once the center of Los Angeles' prohibition movement in the early 1900s. It sits in the heart of a historic district that includes a variety of homes dating back as far as 1893.
Cummings said nobody was believed to have been inside the building, and the department's arson unit was called to the scene, along with the House of Worship Task Force, which includes investigators from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.